Lenny Melton played coy with us at Roadkill Nights when we tried to suss the combo on his 1968 Dodge Dart. We get it, he was keeping his cards close, because he knew he had a chance at a big prize if he could get his A-body down the track. He ended up cutting a 6.393 in the 1/8 mile and taking the title of ‘Fastest Mopar” at the 2017 edition of the Roadkill Nights street drag challenge, powered by Dodge, with racing by Gear Vendors. Lenny opened up a bit more on the combo now that the check is in his hand. But only a little bit. Sigh, racers.
“I bought the car when I was 12 years old,” Lenny told us. “My goal all along was to build it as a street racer. That was right during the era when Hot Rod had started up its street car shootout, and I was reading all those magazines with the dream of building one of the fastest street cars in America.”
Originally outfitted with a 451 low-deck V8, Melton’s Dart ended up sitting in a corner of his shop for more than a decade while he took care of his growing family. This past year, with his oldest son having turned 17 and eager to get behind the wheel of a drag car, it was time to dust off the cobwebs and update the Dodge’ drivetrain. The car now runs an aluminum low-deck Indy Maxx block with 572-13 heads, a nitrous-spec roller cam, two nitrous foggers, with a 727 automatic transmission and a Dana 60 rear end. Depending on the spray kit being used, Lenny said that the 528 cubic inch V8 puts out in the neighborhood of 1,300 horsepower through its 100 percent Chrysler setup.
“It actually has really nice street manners, with the gearing and the tight converter it’s running,” Melton told us. “I can really do anything I want with out on the road and not have to worry. I never wanted to cut the car, either, since it was the first vehicle I ever owned, which means the engine bay and the fender wheels have never been drilled. It’s a narrow-tire car with a stock interior, and I’ve still got the back seat in it, too.”
Lenny’s two sons were the entire reason he ended up at Roadkill Nights to begin with. Austin and Brandon Melton put the car back together this past spring to get it ready for them to race during the summer season, and when they heard about Roadkill’s street race on Woodward, they convinced their dad that he had to get behind the wheel. It also didn’t hurt that neither of them were old enough (21) to officially enter the competition.
“To me, the biggest accomplishment was finishing in the top five fastest cars, overall, at the event,” Melton said. “I went in there knowing that Mike Moran was most likely my biggest competition, and to do that well against big tire cars with the small tire setup we’re running was important to me. We did a lot of testing out on the street to be able to make that happen – and we’ll definitely be back next year, because we’ve gotta defend our title!”